Convocation encourages inclusion and taking risks

Pardis Mahdavi, the new president of the University of La Verne, delivers her first address to the La Verne community Aug. 23 at Convocation. The annual ceremony welcomed students, faculty and staff back to the campus for the new academic year. / photo by Sheridan Lambrook
Pardis Mahdavi, the new president of the University of La Verne, delivers her first address to the La Verne community Aug. 23 at Convocation. The annual ceremony welcomed students, faculty and staff back to the campus for the new academic year. / photo by Sheridan Lambrook

Olivia Modarelli
Copy Editor

University of La Verne students, faculty and staff filled the Johnson Family Plaza last Wednesday, awaiting the University’s annual Convocation.

Convocation is a tradition that brings the entire University community together to recognize the start of the academic year. 

Nearly 800 University community members attended in person, while more joined in online. 

After receiving “Paws Up” T-shirts on the lawn, students filed into the Sports Science Athletic Pavilion. They were soon met with an introduction from Provost Roy Kwon, who opened the ceremony. Everyone stood for a performance of the Star Spangled Banner by ULV student Taylor Murphy and a blessing by University Chaplain Zandra Wagoner before the speeches began. 

Keynote speaker and recipient of the University’s 2023 Excellence in Teaching Award Astrid Keel was met with enthusiasm and began her speech, encouraging students to venture outside of their comfort zones. Keel, a professor of marketing, described how much she learned during her own college experience by participating in classes and extracurricular activities unrelated to her studies. 

“College and post-graduate education – they’re a time to expand your mind, and even more essential, to learn how to expand your mind,” Keel said.

She then explained how doing so can be of benefit to not only one’s mind but to one’s social life. 

“Going outside your comfort zone will likely expand your circle of friends,” Keel said. “Put you in contact with diverse individuals that you would not have made connections with otherwise.”

Soon after, Anthony Revier, chairman of the University board of trustees, took to the podium to introduce the University’s new president, Pardis Mahdavi. 

Mahdavi, who is the 19th president of the University of La Verne, was welcomed with a standing ovation.

“I am present, and I am taking in the gravity of this moment as I have been afforded the honor and absolute privilege of representing each and every single beautiful and diverse face in this place,” Mahdavi said. “I am truly humbled.”

Her speech emphasized the importance of acceptance at the University.

“Acceptance is our principle tenet at the University of La Verne, and inclusion is the mantra within our leap.”

One particular emphasis was on the acceptance of one’s own self and story.

“Remember these three words — own your narrative,” Mahdavi said. 

This is a message that clearly resonated with students, as junior kinesiology major and psychology minor Kimberly Leon said she will definitely be remembering those words after the ceremony. 

For new students, convocation is an opportunity to get involved and experience the University tradition of joining together to ring the Spirit Bell and hear from university leaders.

“I’m so excited to learn more about how the academic year is going to go and I’m excited to meet new people here,” freshman psychology major Mariah Alarcon said. 

The idea of being part of the University tradition excites returning students as well, especially since COVID-19 limited past involvement opportunities. 

“I started in the pandemic,” said senior political science major Jesse Espinoza. “ I wanted to get to experience it in full before I go.” 

After Keel and Mahdavi’s speeches and a performance of “How Far I’ll Go” by Murphy, accompanied by adjunct professor of music Jason Lo, ASULV President Isela Chavez took to the stage. Chavez, a senior French and legal studies major, shared with students the importance of education and of taking advantage of all that the University has to offer. 

She revealed how significant the University of La Verne has been to her own growth, reminding students that change is discomfort and discomfort is growth. She said she hoped that her speech inspired students to get involved on campus. 

“Continue fighting for your education and you will see the fruits of your labor,” she said. 

After enthusiastic applause, Chavez left the stage. The sound soon shifted to that of the University’s Alma Mater performed by Murphy, followed by the ringing of the Spirit Bell, making the start of the fall 2023 semester official. 

Olivia Modarelli can be reached at

Olivia Modarelli, a senior journalism major with a concentration in print-online journalism, is a staff photographer for the Campus Times. She previously served as a staff writer and copy editor.

Sheridan Lambrook, a senior journalism major with a concentration in visual journalism, is photography editor and a staff writer for the Campus Times.

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